Rare 302/4-Speed: 1979 Ford Fairmont Futura Coupe

When people consider Ford’s Fox-Body platform, it seems only natural for their attention to turn to the Mustang. However, the Fairmont offered another alternative that is worth considering. This 1979 Fairmont Futura Coupe looks like a beauty, and it features the rare combination of a V8 engine and a manual transmission. This is a tidy survivor whose condition is well above average. It is also a car that needs a new home, so the owner has listed it for sale here on eBay. It is located in Palm Springs, California, and while the bidding has reached $6,600, this remains short of the reserve.

It’s probably fair to say that the Fairmont Coupe doesn’t generate quite the same level of excitement as a Mustang, but that doesn’t make it a bad car. The original owner ordered it in a shade called Red Glow, and this presents well for an original survivor of this vintage. It still shines impressively, with few flaws or faults worth noting. Ford added a touch of class with the Beige vinyl top and the “wrapover” B-Pillar. This was a feature that was also found on the Thunderbird at this time and made the Fairmont appear more aspirational. The panels are pretty straight, and a life spent in California has allowed this blue-plate survivor to remain rust-free. The chrome and trim are in excellent condition, while the wire hubcaps further accentuate the up-market appearance. The glass appears to be flawless, and the overall impression is that this car would seem to need nothing.

The ’79 Fairmont Futura was never likely to be mistaken for a muscle car, but the drivetrain in this car was both the most desirable and the rarest on offer in this model year. We find that nestled under the hood is a 5.0-liter V8 backed by a 4-speed manual transmission. Power steering and power front disc brakes take the hard work out of the driving experience. While that V8 pumped out a modest 140hp, it was still enough to launch the Fairmont through the ¼ mile in 16.9 seconds. That might not sound that impressive, but to place it in perspective, the ’79 Mustang Cobra would cover the same journey in 16.5 seconds. It’s worth noting that the improved performance came at a price, with the Cobra commanding a 25% price premium over the Fairmont. That represented a lot of money for a minimal performance gain. This engine bay doesn’t present well, with a heavy coating of dust visible across the entire area. However, this is a case where appearances could be deceptive. The owner states that it has a genuine 86,000 miles on the clock and that he has recently treated it to a complete fluid change and new tires. He says that it is ready to go, which suggests that it is in sound mechanical health.

If the presentation of the engine bay is a disappointment, the Fairmont tries to win back some points with an interior that appears to be perfect. If plaid is not your scene, you might find the upholstery a bit on the bright side. However, if you look beyond that, the condition is impressive. There is no visible wear or flaws on the seats and no signs of any stains. The same is true for the door trims, the carpet, and the headliner. The dash and pad show no evidence of cracking or other issues, while the faux woodgrain trim hasn’t lifted or faded. The interior is nicely equipped, featuring recently refurbished air conditioning, a gauge cluster with a factory tach, an AM/FM radio/8-track player, and a tilt wheel. That might not seem like much in today’s Bluetooth world, but it would’ve made this Fairmont feel pretty special in 1979.

It is a harsh reality that Fox-Body Mustangs, especially those with a V8 under the hood, are appreciating at an alarming rate. This is good news for owners, but it is cold comfort for anyone in the market. They are becoming less affordable with each passing day, and potential buyers with limited funds have to consider alternatives. That is where cars like this ’79 Fairmont Futura Coupe fit into the equation. They offer performance that is line-ball with the Mustang but for a significantly lower outlay. They don’t possess the charisma of the pony car but ask yourself when was the last time that you spotted an example as tidy as this with a V8/4-speed drivetrain combination. For most of you, it will be a struggle to remember because most of them have long ago found their way into scrapyard and crushers. That makes this Fairmont deserving of preservation and also makes it worthy of a closer look for anyone shopping for a classic on a budget.


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  1. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Very nice. Like Adam says, here’s your opportunity to have what is essentially a 1979 Mustang in different clothes. And the clothes aren’t unattractive at all. The best parts of this clean Fairmont are the manual transmission and (of course) that flashy plaid upholstery. If you don’t like the whitewalls/ wire wheel covers, some different wheels would wake up the looks. I wonder what the reserve is, assuming it isn’t too high this could be a fun car for not much money.

    Like 23
    • Rick Rothermel

      I had the Mercury variant to this car for a while, a Zephyr Z7, and liked it but found the plasticky interior annoying. Not a bad car, and this one’s sharper than mine was… It’s the Return of the Squaremont!!!

      Like 2
  2. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    Overall, a nice clean car with a desirable engine and 4-speed. There are plenty of speed parts for the 302, so the opportunity for more power is readily available. Adding sportier wheels will improve the outward appearance and detailing the engine bay is a relatively simple task. Some chrome bits under the hood is another option to enhance any engine upgrades. The interior is attractive, especially since it has bucket seats as opposed to a bench seat. If the reserve is reasonable, this would be a relatively inexpensive entry into the old car hobby, especially for someone with a limited budget.

    Like 10
    • Bhowe Member

      I love these Fairmonts and would prefer the next owner leave it bone stock, whitewalls, wire wheel covers and all. There are enough modified cars running around. What is missing are unmolested survivors like this.

      Like 31
  3. RayT Member

    “302/4 Seed”? That HAS to be a One of One!

    Or s this article a plant, Adam????

    Like 7
    • Adam Clarke Staff

      Thanks for the pickup on that, RayT. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to matter how many times you look at something, the obvious flaws don’t jump out. It’s all fixed, and I appreciate your feedback. I hope that we can continue to provide you with enjoyable content.

      Like 9
      • Spanky

        I have found grammarly catches context errors.

        Like 1
  4. Jake8687 Member

    Where have I seen this for sale online? Dealer flip? Splendid Fox, nevertheless.

    Like 5
  5. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    I never really liked this body style, but it seems to grow on me. I could tool around in this with the a/c blowing cold air on me. If you desire more power twin turbo charges can be purchased and they work best with low compression engines @ about 8.5/1. A friend of mine had them put on his Mustang 302. It does give nice boost.
    God bless America

    Like 4
    • Jay

      I was thinking the same thing – new heads, intake, efi with some light turbos, get about 300 + horses.

      Like 1
      • Jwzg

        What, with an SROD 4 speed and a 7.5 rear? That combo would smoke that drivetrain like a cheap cigar. Better upgrade to an 8.8 and WC T5 or T56.

        Now a 347 with an upgraded drivetrain and a modern TBI unit under that silver air cleaner would get after it like your daddy did and look almost stone stock to boot other than dual exhaust and even that could be discrete.

        Like 4
  6. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    This might be the first one of these to appeal to me. Maybe I’m getting older lol. Personally I would hold out for an 84-95 LTD LX 5.0, but there is no denying the appeal and charm of this honest and original Futura.

    Like 6
  7. Sam Shive

    SLEEPER. Pull that 5.0 and go crazy.

    Like 5
  8. Mikefromthehammer

    My second car was a special ordered 79 Mustang Cobra with the 302. I ordered it with the 4 SPD. overdrive manual. It came in (in Feb 1979) with the 3 SPD. auto. (Apparently, according to a buddy at work whose father worked for Ford, there was a strike at Ford’s transmission plant in Mexico).

    The dealer tried to get me to pay for “their cost” of the upgraded transmission (in the vicinity of $300ish). As I really wanted the 4 SPD. I was tempted to walk away. I loved the car when they let me take it out for a spin, however. There was quite a lot of back and forth between me and the salesman (Rick Jacobs). He went to see his manager multiple times. I told him that it was a very desirable car, and they could move it very quickly if I didn’t take it. Meanwhile, this was the middle of winter, and who looks for a sports car in February? Finally, after his last discussion with his manager, he asked me what I would give them for the auto. I told him because I liked the car and the auto improved trade in value, I would be willing to pay an additional $50. After discussing it with his manager, I had a new car on Feb 8, 1979. Because of the auto and the fairly decent discount I already had, I got an $8,128 list price car for $7,050.

    Like 4
  9. Vance

    My Mother needed a new car in the spring of 1980. We bought all of our Ford’s at a small dealership in Yale, Michigan. My sister’s inlaw’s owned it,
    so we were always dealt with appropriately. I was 16, and this was about the sportiest thing that Ford had, and there was no way my Mother was buying a Mustang. I thought they were cool , and I thought I could sway her towards it, knowing I would get it when I went to college. Well, we ended up with a Pinto, I got to pick the color, and a few other options. The Pinto had 180k on it when I sold it 6 years later, never had a problem with it. Maybe it was it was a good choice. I still like the Futura.

    Like 2
  10. steve

    I had an 80 2 door Fairmont as a company car. 6 cylinder automatic. Kick down on the auto going up a hill and the car slowed down! Engine packed it in one cold morning and the gal at the leasing company said “Oh, not ANOTHER one!” it is was the 3rd call that morning about the same issue! Ford dealer fixed it and one tech took it for a ride while the repairing tech washed up. He brought it back and said “Runs like a typical 4 cylinder Fairmont!” The repairing tech hung his head. “Yep” I said “It’s back to normal!”
    I have often wondered WHY the basic Fairmont wasn’t the new home for the drivetrain out of a wrecked Mustang GT. It all bolts up and the basic 2 door is LIGHTER than the GT. Oh..and that gutless 6? it got ONE mpg better than the V8…..Things were weird back then….

    Like 2
  11. Keith

    Wonder what Kevin Marti would say the production numbers are on this engine/trans combo are. Has to be rare

    Like 6
    • Trashboat

      And seriously has to be the last one to exist. Super cool!

  12. Driveinstile Member

    I remember when these came.out. I didn’t pay much attention to them, they were everywhere. I agree with what Bhowe said above. I’d leave it bone stock, just the way it is and preserve it. It would be really hard to find one like this, especially with a stick.

    Like 2
  13. rich mullins

    heater core hoses disconnected,a/c port to left not attached to
    firewall.is ECM below horn mounted or just laying there ?
    possible stain from leaky core,pass.side carpet.

  14. man ' war

    It looks as minty as my 81 Mercury Zephyr Z7. Mine had the 3.3L, color was white with a half maroon vinyl top on the rear, interior burgundy, mellow red strip on the side running from the front of the car and up the side pillar in between the two half vinyl tops on the roof, original except for the wheels which were from a early 70s Capri and tinted windows. What a great looking car it was. Hopefully, it is kept in doors and away from that hot Phoenix sun! Apparently, it spent its life in CO until I sold it. That car got a lot of 👀s.

  15. Howie Mueler

    $8k now and reserve still not met.

  16. Wingnut1475

    My friend had a freak like this. Ford Granada
    2 door, 302, 3 speed on the floor with front bucket seats

  17. Marvin Askins

    I had a 3.3 company car like this with a 4 speed. It was green and quite nice.

  18. chrlsful

    heard ’em called ‘box top’. Would that it B a waggy. Just what I seek, fox… ’78 granada – ’04 SN 95 but wagons only w/granada/cougar – ’86 LTD/Marquis (fox not panther: grand marquis or crown vic). 4 versions only …

  19. Howard A Member

    This is actually a pretty cool car. While the V8 isn’t so unusual, the 4 speed, in a car like this, was practically unheard of. 1st, 4 speeds were for the sporty set, Fairmonts were not. Like most of these intermediates, they catered to single secretaries, librarians, and such. How a 4 speed got in there was a clear boo-boo, most of those owners couldn’t shift a manual trans if their life depended on it. It’s a great find, but today, like in ’79, I don’t think many people will want a Fairmont 4 speed. Maybe,,,

  20. Slixxsta

    My dad had a two tone yellow one, loved it but it was slow. It did have the coldest air conditioning I’d ever felt in a car at that time.

  21. man ' war

    “Reserve not meet”? “8,600”? I sold mine which was only a 3.3L for about 3,400 a couple of years ago, and I could have bought one for about 3,500 with a 302 a couple of years ago. Both of them, to me, had a much better look than this one. Of course, for this one, it’s nothing that a set of nice wheels will not solve.

    • Bhowe Member

      I hope they leave the hubcaps alone. There are enough modified cars out there to enjoy. It’s also nice to see some stock looking ones now and then

  22. David Moore

    Apparently the eBay community didn’t think this was worth what the seller thought, it’s weight in gold. So now it’s up on Craigslist for $13,500.


    Like 1
    • Mikefromthehammer

      GLWTS. I agree it seems overpriced, but as the saying goes, something is worth whatever someone else will pay for it. Unfortunately, unlike eBay, Craigslist does not give you final disposition results. I’d be curious to know how it turns out.

      • David Moore

        I agree completely.
        I understand it’s “very rare” with the 302 & 4 spd but the market is very small for that. I have pined for a Futura/Z7 coupe for years. I used to want to transplant the T-Bird Super-Coupe powerplant but after 30 years as an auto tech, nope, not anymore. I still want one, one with some options, a few mods and some power but still appearing stock. This one appears to be a perfect example, but it still is a 40 Y.O. economy car. NOT worth the $13,500 imo, I guess he hopes he finds someone who has a different opinion. It would be a shame for one this clean and original to be chopped up into a rod or drag car though.

        Like 1
  23. man ' war

    I could have bought one of these a couple of years ago with a 302, not too bad on the miles, a couple of years ago, for about 3k.

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